Should those with J&J vaccine get a booster shot?

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — A Colorado woman with a serious health condition is frustrated by the lack of information on COVID-19 booster shots for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Much of Joanna Reid’s life was spent in the hospital even before the pandemic hit. She has a condition called common variable immune deficiency, making her highly susceptible to infection and forcing her undergo hours-long treatments multiple times a week.

“I actually get infusions of other people’s antibodies every other week, but my immune system is still considerably lower than the average person. I’m also at higher risk for COVID because I have what’s called a pleural effusion, which is essentially fluid around one of my lungs,” said Reid.

Reid isolated as much as possible during the peak of the pandemic but can’t avoid hospital settings.

She received the Johnson & Johnson single dose shot in March. Other immunocompromised Coloradans are now able to get a third shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, but there’s no clear guidance for people in Reid’s position.

“It’s pretty frustrating because for the most part it, feels like it’s just left out of the conversation,” said Reid.

More than 3.4 million Coloradans are fully immunized, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. More than 248,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered.

Johnson & Johnson announced last month data supporting the use of its COVID-19 vaccine as a booster shot for people previously vaccinated with the single shot, but there’s no timeline for official approval.

Reid is concerned about waning immunity and is questioning whether to get a Pfizer booster.

“It’s not considered unsafe, at least based on the studies that have been performed in several European countries. The question is whether it’s the right combination, or whether she should just wait for the J&J boosters,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention at UCHealth.

UCHealth is recommending those who come in for a booster receive the same dose as their original vaccine; Pfizer or Moderna, respectively. Right now, they are not offering anything specific for Johnson & Johnson or those who received AstraZeneca as part of a trial.

Barron says she expects more clarity on this issue in the near future, possibly after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration meets this week to discuss approval of the Pfizer booster.

“These are just a couple months behind. I think that obviously feels very frustrating because you’re waiting for those answers,” said Barron.

Reid says some doctors have recommended she receives a Pfizer booster while others suggest she wait for more information on Johnson & Johnson boosters. In the meantime, she’s back to taking steps to protect herself the way she did before vaccination.

“I hear a lot of people who are talking about the vulnerable population should just stay home. I wish people realized that a lot of the vulnerable population can’t stay home. They have things they have to do and some of those things are about keeping themselves alive, like going to the hospital,” said Reid.

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